Thousands gathered outside the parliement building as lawmakers discussed next year's budget
RIGA - Thousands of people took to the streets on Dec. 1 outside the Latvian parliament building to protest next year's controversial budget.
Two seperate protests were organized by the Latvian Free Trade Association and the Latvian Student's and Education Association. The two drew an estimated 5,000 people, natonal news agency LETA reported.
The larger of the two demonstrations, organized by students and teachers, started at 11am at the Cabinet and proceeded to Saeima, where lawmakers were debating next year's budget.Protesters called for the education minister to step down.
The protest was used to highlight a petition signed by many in the education sphere calling for more funding than is currently allocated for next year.
Police lined the streets, keeping order in one of the biggest protests of the year.
The budget has drawn harsh criticism for some of the deep cuts that it makes to education, as well as a number of other areas.
At the end of last week, however, the European Commission praised the Latvian budget amendments for making difficult cuts in order to stay in line with agreements that had been made with international lenders.
"The draft 2010 budget fulfils the objective of ensuring a fiscal consolidation of 500 million lats through reforms of the public sector and in the economy at large," said EU economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.